Versailles stable owner Melissa Moore works on her own legacy at Lexington Junior League horse show

ngray@herald-leader.comJuly 8, 2014 

Melissa Moore, owner of Sunrise Stables in Versailles, said she has the saddlebred horse business in her blood.

She also had it on her brow Tuesday: sweat dripped from her forehead less than an hour before five of her horses competed during the second day of the 78th annual Lexington Junior League Charity Horse Show at The Red Mile.

During the six-day show, which started Monday, more than 600 horses are vying for top honors in saddlebred events. The show is the first leg of the saddlebred "Triple Crown."

"This is one of the biggest events of this type in the country," Moore said. "You never know what you're going to get each day, even with the horse you feel is ready."

Moore's family has a long and successful history in the saddlebred horse-showing business. Her father, Tom, was a Hall-of-Fame rider based out of Harrodsburg and won more than 200 World Championship titles, according to U.S. Equestrian's website. He swept each grand class (the Three-Gaited, Five-Gaited and Fine Harness classes) in the 1994 Lexington Junior League Charity Horse Show. A statue of him riding a saddlebred horse stands in front of Freedom Hall in Louisville.

Her mother, Donna, was a member of the World Championship Horse Show Hall of Fame for her work in training and showing horses. She also developed several farms around Central Kentucky, including actor William Shatner's Belle Reve Farm. From that farm, she ran Donna Moore Stables until she was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, of which she died in January. Tom and Donna Moore had been divorced; he died in 2001.

"When they were together, they were unbeatable," Moore said of her parents. "When they were apart, they were unbeatable. When they showed against each other, it was great drama for everybody to watch."

Her mother's specialty was pairing amateur riders with horses she trained, which was an "incredible" talent, Moore said.

While her parents succeeded, Moore didn't immerse herself in the business as she became an adult. Though she won events as early as age 12, her parents wanted her to branch out. So she attended Brooks College in Long Beach, Calif.

"I couldn't stay away, though," Moore said. "I rode horses in California and came back after I finished (college). I didn't really want to do anything else."

Her parents' legacies have increased expectations for Moore throughout her career, she said.

"For a while, I had to realize that I didn't have to live up to them, that I could be who I was," Moore said. "You feel like you're growing up in the public eye, and they expect you to do well. It was probably more pressure on myself than people put on me. But you have to be who you are and not worry about that."

She has begun to carve out a legacy of her own. Moore has won more than 50 events as a rider, and the horses she has trained have won more than 25 events. Currently, she owns 30 horses that she trains, and she trains horses from out of state as well.

Moore's sister, Melinda, is also in the saddlebred business, training and riding horses while owning Arrowhead Farm in Lawrenceburg. One of Melinda's recent local successes came at the Alltech National Horse Show at the Kentucky Horse Park, where she won in the Three-Gaited and Five-Gaited classes.

"She does fantastic," Melinda Moore said of her sister. "She's very dedicated to this breed. She actually takes on more work than she should. She's got a heavy load on her all the time."

Now that both her parents have died, Moore appreciates the relatives she has around the sport now. She said it alleviates some of the pressure that comes with her last name.

"It's hard to do our job and not want to share it with your family," Moore said. " It's nice to have a sibling around to share these things."

Nick Gray: (859) 231-1330. Twitter: @ngray_63.

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